December 2nd, 2023 marks the final administration of the paper-and-pencil SAT. The pervasive image of the bubble sheet with pencils lying across it will ride off into the sunset. A way of life – frantically scribbling in C for every question we didn’t reach – will come to an end for us all. But this year’s juniors have a final shot at the paper-and-pencil test. Who should take it?
Unlike most other years, this year juniors who take the SAT will face a fork in the road in December. One option is to prepare for the paper-and-pencil SAT, planning to be done with testing by that final December date. The other is to look ahead to the Digital SAT, beginning in March 2024, and proceed from that initial test date.
For rising juniors, the major advantage to taking this current version of the SAT is that it is known. The Digital SAT, for all its press, still needs to prove its utility as a reliable predictor of academic success in college. But the drawback is that there is a hard stop in December of junior year, relatively early in the preparation process. So, it is important for rising juniors to obtain baseline SAT scores from which to project final scores given a six-month timeline.
From a baseline SAT score taken in the summer before junior year, a good score improvement on the actual SAT would be around 200 points. 250 points would be an excellent outcome, and 300 points would be an outlier. To make a rough score projection, a student would want to take a mock test, obtain a baseline score, and add 200 points to it. Is that score useful at the schools to which the student will ultimately apply? If not, then taking the paper-and-pencil SAT may not make sense. The ACT – with its full, standard timeline – could be a better option. Or, waiting until for Digital SAT could be the play.
For students who hope to proceed with the paper-and-pencil SAT, that final December test date is not far off – only six months away from June 2nd. Considering that summer and its associated plans are in that June-December window, you’re probably looking at a time frame more like 5 or even 4.5 months. So, a student looking at the paper-and-pencil SAT would want to consider beginning their preparation soon. Summer prep has always been reasonably popular as a means to get ahead of the curve studying, but this year more than others, certain students will very much want to look at beginning their preparation early.
Some good news is that the Digital SAT is not very different – content-wise – from the current SAT. So, much content preparation for the current SAT will carry over to the Digital version, if a student does not reach their target score by December.
Regardless of what test a student ends up taking, they should do their mock testing in the summer before junior year, preferably earlier, to leave all preparation options on the table. Contact us for help with mock testing, tutoring, and general advice on testing and academics.